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A more alpine excursion, the South Ridge begins at the head of Mangatepopo Valley at the entrance to South Crater. Scramble along over blocky ground. It is also possible to gain the upper South Ridge by climbing directly out of the head of South Crater; neither conditions, views nor sunshine are likely to be as agreeable as on the ridge. The alpine lakes and summits of the mountains are sacred to Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro. Respectfully, they ask that summits are not climbed, waterways are not touched, and frozen lakes not walked on. Either descend to the east to rejoin the Crossing, or avoid the crowds altogether and descend a scree slope down the mountain’s western flank towards the long ridge that hems the Mangatepopo valley on its northern side. A faint track leads back to the car park.
The Tongariro Crossing between the Mangatepopo valley and Ketetahi is a hugely popular summer walk. Even so, parties setting out on the Crossing should be prepared for sudden changes in weather and mountain conditions. Winter on Tongariro is very different. Although on a ﬁne day a steady stream of visitors may still climb to the craters, there will be nothing like the constant ﬂow encountered in summer. Under snow, the broad expanses of the craters are a unique alpine environment. It’s a great day out. You will need an ice axe, crampons, and the ability to use them.
The alpine lakes and summits of the mountains are sacred to Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro. Respectfully, they ask that summits are not climbed, waterways are not touched, and frozen lakes not walked on.